Photography – Project 2: Exercise 1 – It’s About Time

Look carefully at the images in the course book. Also look up a fourth image, Jacques-Henri Lartigue’s Cousin Bichonnade in Flight online. Make some notes about how each conveys movement. You don’t have to write anything technical; just note down what you feel is going on in each image – and how successful it is. Compare what you’ve written with the commentary.

The first image is Derek Trillo’s Passing Place. The work is of two people walking towards each other on a set of stairs with a multicoloured wall behind them. The figures are a little blurred, so the shutter speed must have been set to something along the lines of 1/2 second. The photo gives a sense of leisurely movement. We are mostly all aware of walking up and down a staircase, so the movement implied in the image would be obvious to most of us.

The next two photos are by Dr. Harold Edgerton. He was a scientist, as opposed to a photographer, but invented the strobe light in order to see how objects in motion really moved. He combined the strobe light with a camera in order to freeze movement, such as the photo of the bullet being shot through the apple which we see in the course book. The video below shows him actually demonstrating this. The technique allows a picture to be taken of a millisecond of time, freezing a movement that the naked eye would never normally be able to see.

The other picture of Edgerton’s captures not just a tiny moment of time, but various tiny moments of time. By leaving the shutter open longer and flashing the strobe light multiple times on a subject that is moving against a black background, you get a photo like the ‘Multiflash Tennis Serve, 1949’ where you see movement in many different stages, but in the same exposure. The sense of movement here is clear. Without the strobes, the movement would be captured as a blur – the smooth kind of movement we would be used to seeing with our eyes when we watch someone play tennis. Edgerton’s photo gives a more step-by-step view of that tennis serve which is a unique way of capturing movement.

The final image, Cousin Bichonnade in Flight, by Jacques-Henri Lartigue (taken in 1905). Lartigue has managed to freeze the action of the woman leaping off the stairs by using a very fast shutter speed. Freezing the motion ‘mid jump’ is a creative way of capturing motion. If the photo had been taken as she was just normally walking down the stairs, the sense of motion would be depleted as she could easily just be posing ‘as if’ she was walking when she’s actually standing still. It would just be a regular snapshot of a woman on a staircase. By asking her to jump from the steps and then capturing that moment when she’s in the air, we know for a fact that it is a jump (as opposed to her actually flying in the air!).

If you wish, have a go at taking some moving shots of your own. Ideally, try two or three different approaches and see which works the best. Include the images in your learning log together with a brief description of how you tackled them.

The first photo below was an attempt at panning as my son was walking across the kitchen. His upper torso seems to be in focus, but it didn’t work so well for the rest of him! I probably needed to do it where he could walk a lot further so I had more chance to follow him with the camera before taking the photo.

The next two photos were taking with a 1″ exposure time with the camera on a firm surface and my kids moving around. I think it worked quite well, especially as I was using the very minimal manual settings on my compact camera.

This last photo was taken on my iPhone using the ‘Manual’ app with the fastest shutter speed. It hasn’t done too bad a job of freezing my daughter dancing, although, if you zoom in, she is a bit blurry around the edges. At a quick glance though, it just looks like she’s striking a pose, which is what I’d expect this setting to do.

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